Week 10 has begun,and we've past the half-way point of the NFL season in a position many of us didn't expect to be in. Sitting at 2-6, we are far back of the 7-1 and division leading San Francisco 49ers. So now that we've reached week 10 we are matched up with the 3-5 Philadelphia Eagles. Their season has been equally disappointing, going from pre-season Super Bowl contenders to third place in the NFC East at mid-season. If nothing else, a victory Sunday for our Cards will give us the same record as the Eagles going into Week 11. I'm sure if this scenario was offered at the beginning of the season, we wouldn't have hesitated to accept that offer. Let's now look at the five keys to making that scenario a reality:
1. Stop the Eagles run offense: The Eagles average an NFL-leading 172.2 rushing yards/game, 16 yards more than the second place Oakland Raiders. The Cardinals defense allows an average of 117.8 rushing yards/game, good for 16th in the NFL. We are also susceptible to allowing premier running backs dominate games; most recently Steven Jackson of the inept St. Louis Rams gashing us for 130 yards. Our front 7 is going to have to have a good game to stop LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick from dominating this game on the ground. The edge rushers, Sam Acho, Calais Campbell and O'Brien Schofield have to keep Vick in the pocket, and not force him to get yards with his arm and not his legs.
2. Feed the Bean: Beanie Wells appears to be in the best shape in weeks heading into this match-up, after practicing fully on Friday. This bodes well for a Cardinals team that struggles to run with anyone other than Wells. Beanie was limited to 20 yards on 10 rushes last week, a combination of many factors. Our offensive line couldn't get a significant push, Beanie looked like his injury was hampering him, and Anthony Sherman was out with an ankle injury. Sherman is questionable for this game as he was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday.This match-up could be exploited, due to Philadelphia having the 22nd ranked run defense, allowing 124 yards/game. However, the Eagles could stack the box to stop our rushing attack, which brings me to the next matchup.
3. Let it fly: All signs point to John Skelton getting his second consecutive start in place of the injured Kevin Kolb. Kolb did not practice at all this week and, despite his desire to get out there against his former team, it seems very unlikely that he'll be able to play. Skelton will get a real test this week, going against a very skilled team in the Eagles. If the Eagles stack the box to to stop our rushing offense, we are going to need Skelton to make some big plays. Skelton has to make the Eagles respect his ability to move this offense through the air. We were able to beat the Rams last week by grinding it out because of their equally bad offense. That type of production won't cut it against the Eagles. Skelton has the arm to heave it downfield, and if we want to keep this game competitive, we are going to need to take some chances on offense. I'm hoping the hear "Skelton throws it deep to Fitzgerald" at least three times in the first half.
4. Stop the big play: The Eagles have a plethora of play-makers on offense. LeSean McCoy, Micheal Vick, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin all have the ability to make huge plays on offense. If we want to win this game, we can't let these guys make plays on offense for big yardage. Our defenders have to keep the play in front of them and force the Eagles to nickel and dime us down the field if they want to score. If we are able to execute this game plan, and only allow small chunks of yards at a time, we can frustrate the Eagles offense. Eventually, Vick will try to force the ball deep to his receivers and we can capitalize and create turnovers. This will be the key on defense; being patient and forcing their offense into making bad decisions.
5. Our CBs against Maclin: Patrick Peterson should be lined up against DeSean Jackson for the majority of the game, and he should do well against Jackson. Peterson does a good job in covering speed receivers, and should be able to contain Jackson for much of the game. This is why the match-up against Jeremy Maclin will be so important. Whether its A.J. Jefferson or Richard Marshall, the cornerback playing against Maclin will have to have a very good game. With Peterson blanketing Jackson, Vick will be looking in Maclin's direction a lot tomorrow. Jefferson or Marshall are going to have to play very tight in man coverage, or else this will be a match-up that the Eagles will exploit, much like the Ravens did against us with Anquan Boldin.
If we are to have a chance in the game tomorrow against the Eagles, every single facet of our team is going to have to play very well. Our defense has to contain the Eagles slew of big play weapons, and limit their offense into small yardage plays. Our offense has to exploit their vulnerable run defense, and take some shots deep to Larry Fitzgerald. Expect so see some trick or gadget plays on offense tomorrow. Obviously, special teams are big in every game, and having good field position will go a long way in helping Skelton tomorrow. The Eagles are a very talented team, but that does not make them unbeatable. It seems that every week, whomever is playing the Eagles steps their game up to try and dethrone the "Dream Team". Hopefully the Cardinals will do the same tomorrow, and executing these keys will definitely increase their chances of victory.